Instagram stories and how to run contests on them.

Hello there, you must have clicked on this article because you want to know more about Instagram stories and how to use them in marketing purposes. But before we dive into that, we need to understand what makes Instagram stories different than regular posts.

First and foremost Instagram stories last for 24 hours only, and yes, this feature was lifted from Snapchat, but that’s not the point here. From psychological standpoint it gives users more incentive to post content because of “It will go away” mindset. You see, there is a real fear of posting content on social media. Who will see it? Will it get enough likes? What will my followers think? Is it perfect? Most of these questions are bypassed if the post disappears after one day. It’s not about creating perfect content anymore, it’s about documenting. Documenting the moments by taking pictures or recording videos and you don’t have to worry about lighting, color saturation, white balance etc. if it’s not perfect it doesn’t matter because in 24 hours it’s gone.

Second thing that makes this feature so fun are filters and stickers, which you don’t have access to when posting normal posts. Face recognition filters in combination with stickers and on top of that an option to “pin” any sticker to an object in video is genius and opens whole new world of possibilities.

Now that we understand why more people than ever are using Instagram stories, let’s see how we can make it work for contests. Wait, what contests, photo, video? Well good you asked, because the answer is neither! It’s Instagram story contest and I strongly believe that it should be left to individuals to choose the format which would best suit their idea.

When creating story, users have the option to tag other users, this is the key for entering contest. There is no other way, other than tagging, at the time of writing this, to reliably see who has entered your contest. In order to tag your company Instagram profile, users must follow your profile; literally, they can’t tag you if they are not following you. Obviously this is good for gaining followers. Users must unlock their profile so the story is visible to non-followers.

And now the fun part: picking out the topic of the contest. Since there are a ton of stickers plus face recognition filters, your imagination can run wild but more importantly the imagination of your followers. Whether the topic is of “show us how you use our product” format or asking your followers to take a selfie with it, it doesn’t matter. Normal selfies can be transformed into whacky and funny ones and your product can get his doodled legs, arms and face, he might even start talking? As long as they are creative (and every human being is, in its own way), you will get some truly unique and amazing content that will be seen by friends of your followers and that is the end goal! Since people are already using stories way more than regular posts, chances are higher they will enter the contest and thus increase the visibility of your brand.

However there is a caveat to all this. Unlike, just using hashtag to enter contest, you can’t see content your followers made whenever you want to. Stories last for 24 hours remember? So this requires a lot more time spent in your DMs looking at all the notifications from users entering the contest (you will get notification every time someone tags you in a story) and print screening the content so you have some sort of documentation when announcing winners later on.

One more tiny downside is you can’t print screen videos, which means you will have to ask followers to download their story and send it to you via email or some other channel or use some app for filming the screen (which is better option). Hey this isn’t such a bad thing at all. On one side, yes you are spending more time, but on the other side you are building relationship with your followers who, after all, are your potential customers.

Contest announcement could be in form of a regular post. It needs to be accessible at all times since it contains all the important information like the rules, start and end dates, awards, method of picking winners etc. Of course, during contest, you should post reminders and you can do this both on your story as well as in form of a regular post. I recommend picking winners based on creativity and clearly stating that on the announcement, in order to motivate followers to create the most interesting content. As far as picking winners go, you can even make a panel of judges that consists of your most loyal customers or followers and if that doesn’t work for you or your product, you can always pick winners by yourself.

One nice way to give back to your community on Instagram is to repost winners story as your own and tag them. Give your followers a chance of having their own “5 minutes of fame” and a bit of exposure. Since stories last for one day it would be natural to announce winner(s) on a daily basis, or after 24 hours. But this is completely up to you. Have in mind there is no proven right or wrong way yet, as this is uncharted territory we are in at the moment.

If you could take away only one thing from this whole article I’d like it to be this: focus on the chosen topic in which you want your followers to present your product or service. Give your theme a name, something different (people notice different things, they stick out), and then watch how community transforms your product into awesome stories.

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